Everything You Need To Know About Free Radicals & Antioxidants
The relationship between free radicals and antioxidants can be broadly compared to the relationship between a hero and villain where the free radicals take the place of the villain and the antioxidants that of the hero. So are free radicals bad for you? Read on to find out.
Scientifically, a free radical can be defined as an atom containing a single unpaired electron. In your body, it is often an oxygen molecule that has a missing electron. In an attempt to gain stability, the molecule steals an electron from the nearest molecule and when that happens we say oxidation has taken place. Anything that comes into contact with free radicals first is negatively affected. If a free radical comes into contact with the wall of a cell, that cell dies. If it comes into contact with DNA, it leads to a mutation which can ultimately lead to an illness such as cancer.
Free radicals only exist for a fraction of a second but they can make such a mess in your body. As soon as a molecule has been oxidized by a free radical, a chain of reaction is activated leaving destruction in its wake and the only thing that can stop this reaction is an antioxidant. An antioxidant comes in with extra electrons and fills in the gaps with the damaged cells and also neutralises the free radicals themselves.
Where Do Free Radicals Come From?
Free radicals are all around us and it is impossible to avoid them. They are found in:
- The sun as well as any other type of radiation such as X-Ray, MRI, and other medical scanning machines.
- Pollutants such as cigarette smoke
- Free radicles can also be found in the food we eat as a result of chemicals, metals, and pesticides found in foods. Also, during digestion of fats, free radicals are produced in high amounts.
- Physical and mental stress can also expose one to free radicals. For instance, individuals who over exercise increase oxidation in their bodies thus making them more vulnerable to the effects of free radicals.
- Your own body makes free radicals naturally when you do simple necessary things like breathing and generating energy
Are Free Radicals Bad?
So far we’ve highlighted the negative impacts of free radicals but are free radicals bad entirely? Definitely not. Free radicals actually play a significant role in breathing. They are also key to our immune systems as they assist in the destruction of bacteria as well as other invaders that might attack your body. Free radicals also help in starting the inflammatory process, which is key in repairing an injury in your body.
Therefore as much as antioxidants help undo the damage caused by free radicals, the two are actually important in your body. The key is to ensure they are both balanced for optimal health.
The ORAC Scale
ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) is a method used for gauging the antioxidant properties contained in a variety of foods including berries, fruits, vegetables, beans, spices and essential oils.
Below are some of the top antioxidant foods, based on the ORAC scores by Nutrient Data Laboratory at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center and Agricultural Research service in the Department of Agriculture in the U.S.
- Goji berries
- Wild blueberries
- Dark chocolate
- Kidney beans
The science behind the ORAC scale is complex but in simple terms, it provides various charts showing the value of fruits, spices, vegetable and essential oils. The values indicate which foods have the highest levels of antioxidants as well as those with the lowest.
Sources of Antioxidants
There are many different kinds of antioxidants and each has its own unique function. For optimal health, you require an assortment of antioxidants. You can’t just rely on one or two types and expect to be adequately mitigating the effects of free radicals in your body. Some antioxidants such as glutathione, alpha-lipoic acid and CoQ10 are produced in your body. There are however antioxidants that must be obtained from foods and/or supplements. Fresh berries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries are the best antioxidant fruits you’ll ever find because they are rich in phytochemicals, which inhibit the DNA binding of particular carcinogens. Additionally, berries are a great source of vitamin C, carotenoids, and carotenes all of which are powerful antioxidants. They also contain key nutrients such as potassium, calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium.
Although rich in antioxidants, fruits also contain high amounts of fructose which when taken in excess can be harmful to your health. So moderation is key when consuming fruits including berries.
Berry Radical Antioxidant Blend
As well as plenty of blueberries (my favourite!) I supplement my antioxidants with Berry Radical. This is a groundbreaking natural supplement created to help your body in attaining optimal health, longevity, and well-being. The ingredients found in Berry Radical have been chosen for there high ORAC scores and all play a key role in assisting your body to neutralise damage caused by free radicals. The ingredients protect your cells, support your immune function and some actually help in slowing down the ageing process.
Nutritionists often recommend that we take about seven servicing of vegetables and fruits daily but sometimes it’s hard to keep count the number of servings consumed daily. That’s where the berry radical comes in handy. It contains ingredients packed with antioxidants which guarantee that you get the adequate amounts needed to fight the negative effects of free radicals on your body.
Ingredients include cacao which is the richest source of magnesium and it provides more than 21 times more protection from free radicals when compared to green tea. Read my article on the benefits of cacao here. A reason this blend is so popular is that it can be enjoyed as a hot drink in replacement of coffee or tea- both which are highly acidic in comparison. Also great for those wanting to cut down on caffeine but still want something that gives them a natural energy boost.
The other notable ingredient is olive juice. It is extracted from the pulp of olives. Olive juice has about 300 times the antioxidant capacity as compared to olive oil and has for a long time been disposed of as a waste by-product of oil production before Dr Crea tested it for it’s antioxidant potential and found high levels of the antioxidant hydroxytyrosol.
The Berry Radical antioxidant amalgam also contains a variety of berries such as goji berry, blueberry, acai berry, strawberry, and raspberry. These have been freeze-dried and so the antioxidant potential is highly concentrated. You get a far greater dose of free radical fighting antioxidants in 1 tsp then in a full punnet of berries and in fact it works out a whole lot cheaper then buying fresh organic berries!
Both free radicals and antioxidants are important in life. Too much or too little of either can be detrimental to your health. For optimal health, you must learn how to balance the two. Eat the right foods, protect your skin from the harsh rays during the middle of the day and perhaps invest in the berry radical antioxidant blend and you’ll be one step ahead in keeping the negative effects of free radicals at bay.
P.S The antioxidant blend is included in the 10 day vitality challenge if you fancy trying the product which is covered by a full money back guarantee.